In the age of Amazon, offering grocery delivery is no longer a competitive advantage but a necessity. Countless retailers in recent years have partnered with or acquired innovative tech startups to offer “convenient” e-commerce services, but is convenience really the objective?
Following Jet’s recent relaunch as a shopping destination for city-dwelling consumers, which the company said was designed to provide a more convenient, personalized and “city grocery experience,” I tend to think otherwise.
As an New York City resident, living without a car in a Brooklyn neighborhood that lacks walkable access to a grocery store, I was eager to test-run the refreshed Jet.com. The homepage greeted me with a local feel featuring a picturesque image of the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, as well as several product recommendations from local brands, such as Gotham Greens and Tate’s Bake Shop, and I eagerly filled up my virtual shopping cart.
To receive same-day delivery, orders must be placed before 9 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, so I settled for next-day delivery within a three-hour window of my choice for a $5.95 scheduling fee. But the delivery timing was the least of the inconveniences I ultimately experienced.
For a modest grocery order for a two-person household, totaling $122, I unexpectedly received 10 large packages comprised of 12 brown paper bags, eight brown insulated paper bags, seven plastic bags, three dry ice bags and a whopping 30 ice packs. And to my horror, the company used an entire package with five ice packs to deliver a single bag of salad.
Jet had faced criticism for its wasteful overuse of packaging in the past—an issue that the company said would be addressed by fulfilling orders via Parcel, the tech-enabled last-mile delivery company that Walmart acquired in 2017, but aside from replacing boxes with paper bags, not much has changed.
Today, Jet touts the claim of “Hassle-Free Packaging” on its website, stating: “We separate and pack your order by temperature, so frozen, refrigerated and pantry items will come in separate, easy-to-carry insulated paper bags. And our packaging is 100% recyclable! Just flatten and recycle the bags with other paper products and empty the chill packs and dry ice packs before recycling with film plastics.”
Indeed, all of the bags and ice packs are recyclable, but they are certainly not convenient for customers to do so. It took me nearly an hour just to unpack my groceries, fold up the paper bags and deliver them to recycling bins, and that’s not including the time it took to defrost the ice packs, dispose of the liquid contaminants and rinse the plastic pouches in order for them to be properly recycled.
In the time that it took to dispose of the packaging, I could have taken the subway to a local grocery store, where I typically bring my own reusable shopping bags that are truly “hassle-free.”
As consumers increasingly opt to shop online for their groceries, it seems retailers are looking for the fastest, not necessarily the most convenient, way to satisfy this demand. Rather than offering recyclable packaging, retailers that want to attract repeat customers should consider reusable insulated packages that their delivery services can collect the next time they deliver an order—a system that AmazonFresh offers, though has not yet perfected. Doing so would not only incur less packaging waste (as it is safe to assume most customers would not bother to put in the time and effort to properly recycle 30-plus ice packs and packages every time they receive an order) but also encourage customers to order again so that the packages from their previous order can be picked up.